Happy New Year! 2016 ushers in some significant changes for employees and employers in New York. Here are seven changes you need to know.

  1. The minimum wage under NY law has increased from $8.75 to $9.00 per hour. There also have been changes to NY laws that apply to tipped employees and fast food workers.

  2. The minimum salary under NY law for an exempt employee has increased from $656.25 to $675.00 per week. We expect the federal government to adopt a higher minimum salary in 2016 (current federal minimum salary for exempt employee is $455.00 per week).

  3. Employers who employ less than 4 people can be held liable under the New York Human Rights Law [“HRL”] for unlawful sexual harassment. Previously, these employers were immune from such liability. These employers, however, remain immune from liability for other forms of sexual discrimination (e.g., refusal to promote on account of sex) and discrimination on account of other protected classes (e.g., race, religion, disability, etc.).

  4. An employer held liable under the HRL for unlawful discrimination on account of sex may have to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the employee. Previously, employers liable for any type of unlawful discrimination under NY law had no risk for paying reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the employee. This risk has been present for many years for employers required to comply with federal law (those who employ 15 or more employees).

  5. An employee who brings a frivolous sex discrimination claim against an employer may be required to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the employer. Previously, employees had no risk of paying reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the employer. The new law identifies factors to be considered to determine whether a claim is frivolous.

  6. An employer required to comply with the HRL must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with “pregnancy-related medical conditions.” This was generally understood previously, however, the obligation is clear now.

  7. There is a new protected class under New York law–familial status. An employer required to comply with the HRL may not discriminate against an employee or applicant who is “in the state of being pregnant, having a child, or acquiring legal guardianship of a child.”
Please contact us if we can help. We hope that 2016 is happy, healthy and successful for you, your family and your business.